Matthew Kachmar, like any project manager, shows up to the jobsite every day planning (and hoping) for a smooth day’s build. But on a recent dig, Matthew and his team at Pizzarotti IBC unearthed some unusual treasure that link past to present.
In the heart of what is New York City’s Financial District, is Matthew’s most recent and largest project to date, the Marriott AC Hotel. This new building is steps away from the East River, and once completed will reach 313 feet tall, with 30 floors.
All of this construction is being built in a congested lot on 151 Maiden Lane. A curious name for a street with an even more interesting past.
Had you taken a stroll down this old lovers’ lane in the 17th century you could have taken in the the view of the waterfront or during less civilized times revolutionary battles. But over the years, the waterfront has changed.
At the end of the eighteenth century, Lower Manhattan was too cramped and the harbor too small for the volume of trade that was coming into New York. So, in the late 1790s, the city began deliberate efforts to extend the shoreline farther out into the Hudson River, thereby expanding the size and usefulness of this area. By the 1830s, the area had been completely filled and the new shoreline lay 200 yards west of its original location at modern Greenwich Street.
Over the decades, the earth brought in for the shoreline extension completely covered up remnants of this lane’s past. Now, during underground digs on high rise projects it’s not uncommon to find these artifacts during construction projects.
The Jobsite caught up with Matthew, a New York native, to chat about how he is adding to the city’s rich history in construction and how he is contributing to the industry’s future.
Matthew, how did you first find your way into the construction industry?
I'm a born and raised in New Yorker. I grew up in Yonkers, NY and went to a trade and technical high school. I was able to take architecture classes and learn all about drafting as well as the ins and outs of architecture. Then in the eleventh and twelfth grade I took my first construction and facilities management class. I enjoyed the freedom that construction afforded me and decided to go along that path instead.
I received my regents diploma from there and then went to college at Brooklyn Tech to study Construction Management Technology. Since then, I've been in the industry for just over ten years now.
After graduating from college, how did you and Pizzarotti IBC find each other?
Our founders, Rance MacFarland and Frank DeGrande had originally been at the company that I previously worked for. After they ventured on their own and created Pizzarotti IBC, I joined within the next six months. I was their first project manager and helped them build the company from the ground up. The rest, as they say, is history.
As a project manager, what is your role on the build?
I’m like the conductor of the project. I’m responsible for the job financials, schedule, and overall project itself.
I'm also the direct interface with ownership as well as all of the architects and engineers. I handle the funding from the bank, bank walkthroughs, ensuring subcontractors are paid, and making sure materials are going to be here on site and on time.
What’s it like being a native New Yorker and now having the opportunity to contribute a small piece to its rich construction history?
It’s a prestigious honor. Right now I’m the project manager on Pizzarotti’s first out-of-the-ground building in New York City, the Marriott AC. So it is a prestigious honor to be able to build our first high-rise in NYC. It's amazing knowing that something I helped build will remain in NYC for a very long time.
During the dig for the 151 Maiden Lane Marriott AC project, your team was uncovering some interesting things. Can you explain what you were finding?
If you were to pull up a map, and look at Water Street you’d see that it is a few blocks away from the East River. But Water Street was actually named after the water that used to be about three blocks into what is now Lower Manhattan. That area used to be surrounded by docks and boat slips.
Now, over 100 years later, we're digging and building where those old docks used to be. So, when we were excavating and drilling piles, we were uncovering old wooden bulkheads, bottles, and pieces of wooden dock slips.
That’s so interesting! It’s like buried treasure. Are there any downsides to building in Manhattan?
There's no way to see what's in the ground before you begin, right? Down here in Lower Manhattan it's the oldest section of the city. So, you definitely run into more problems building in the ground than you would versus anywhere else. Uncovering all of these old dock slips and wooden piers is interesting. But since there’s no way to plan for it, it definitely adds time to the project including cost.
Also, in this congested area the gap between our building and the one adjacent to us is only 13 inches apart.
That's all it is in New York City. You’re working in tight quarters and you often run into many challenges while building, like unruly neighbors and pedestrians, to name a few.
It’s pretty remarkable to think about the long history of construction in Lower Manhattan. The majority of it was done without the help of technology. Since you in essence “grew up” in the industry using technology, can you imagine what it would be like to work without it?
No. I was actually thinking about this a few weeks ago. I'll be 30 years old this year, so I'm not too old. Along with the rest of my team, we're probably the youngest project team in Pizzarotti right now.
We were talking about how 30 or 40 years ago, before email existed, you had to use a fax machine to do this. Without cellphones you had to wait for messengers. I mean, the timeframe that it must have taken to complete a building, in my mind... I can't fathom the time that was added onto these projects simply because of the technology that they didn’t have. It must have been that much more challenging.
Construction is facing a labor shortage. And the industry is having trouble attracting emerging talent. Since you found your love for construction at a young age, do you have any advice for those considering construction as a career?
It is a tough industry, but people should definitely give it a chance. Construction is still a rare line of work that must be done by humans. People put their minds to the paper, so to speak, come together to build as a group, and actually get something done. It can't all be done over the Internet. It can't all be done over the phone.
I think young kids and students see the technological field as cool or interesting, but they don’t give construction the consideration it deserves. It's literally a very tough industry. You're dealing with a lot of different people and a lot of different personalities.
But you get to leave your little mark on the city and hopefully the building you build lasts forever in a city that's constantly changing.
Good luck to Matthew and the entire Pizzarotti team as they complete this project. As for the new Marriott at 151 Maiden Lane, completion is expected by 2017.